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[Page 101]


October, 1921

        It happened on a cloudy, windy October morning in 1921, where Zavel the mason from Zakazelia ran into Drohitchin, screaming hysterically and carrying the awful news that a gang of Balakhovitch followers broke into Zakazelia at night and killed seventeen Jews, among whom was Zavel's wife Breindel, son, daughter and son-in-law; my dear sister Batsheva and her two young daughters, and another ten Jewish men and women, most of whom were refugees from the town of Libeshei (Lubeshov) in Pinsk district, and who had sought temporary shelter in Count Bobrinsky's good Zakazelia because their hometown was destroyed in battle, and its almost 500 Jewish families were dispersed among the towns and villages in the so-called German occupation zone. The dreadful news spread through the Drohitchin Jewish community like wildfire, and everyone was seized with fear.

        The war of the Poles and their "Balakhovitch legionnaires" against the Bolsheviks raged with full force, and wherever the Balakhovitchists went, the started a pogrom against the Jews. The robbery, rape and murder, and now, the Zakazelia butchery, cast an indescribable fear on the Jews in the entire region. What would tomorrow bring?

        The first that had to be done was to make sure the Zakazelia martyrs were buried in a Jewish cemetery, and the few remaining living Jews were evacuated to Drohitchin. However, the situation became very difficult. First, there was no one who wanted to volunteer to risk their life to travel the dangerous route to Zakazelia, which was 14 viorst [10 miles] away, to determine what could be done for both the dead and the living. Second, no one dare move the dead until a permit was received from the Polish authorities in Kobrin. In the meantime, however, it was still necessary to arrange to watch the bodies so they wouldn't be desecrated. So who should do this? Since there was no other alternative and out of desperation, I took on the painful and superhuman task of going to Zakazelia, against the protests of my wife and my old mourning father.

        When I arrived in Zakazelia, the valley of death, and saw my dearly beloved sister lying there shot dead, and next to her, her two sweet daughters Feigele and Chashele, 12 and 14 years old, with their torn open stomachs and smashed heads, I broke down and a gruesome lament tore out my heart. A couple of Jews from Zakazelia were already at the spot: R. Zerach Sheinbaum and Pessel, who made every effort to calm me down.

        We were all broken up and heart-broken as we went to check up on the other victims: Shmuel Lev, the former mayor of Libeshei (under the German occupation), his sister, Taibel, and their elderly mother; they were a respectable and hard-working family of five people from Libeshei; the wife of Zavel the mason's wife, son, daughter and son-in-law, who were the only long-standing residents of Zakazelia. The picture was horrible, and unimaginable by any person. My pen cannot even describe it on paper.

        It turned out that a gang of a dozen soldiers belonging to the Balakhovitch unit that was stationed for a few hours at the Nagoria station had broken away and gone into Zakazelia. According to gentile witnesses, they broke into Jewish homes, shooting anyone they could lay their hands on. Later it was discovered that the victims were shot

[Page 102]

with dum-dum bullets, and the murderers quickly returned to their unit at the station after the executions.

[Photo:] Shmuel Fishman – At the new cemetery in Drohitchin. He is standing near the graves of his sister, Batsheva and her children Feigele, 12, and Chashele, 14, who were brutally murdered together with 14 other Jews by the murderous Balakhovitch gang members (who joined with the Poles to fight the Bolsheviks) in Zakazelia in 1921. May G-d avenge their blood!

        If the Polish government at that time had not been saturated by anti-Jewish hatred, they could have easily captured the unit, and found out who the people were who were responsible for the massacre. It should be noted as a historical fact, however, that the Polish regime quietly agreed to the behavior of their partners, Batka [Papa] Balakhovitch gangs, who rampaged across Polesia, committing horrific pogroms against the Jewish population, and didn't take any action to stop the murderers and punish the guilty. This also occurred to dozens and hundreds Jewish victims who fell to their bloody hands in Pinsk and surrounding areas and many villages between Kamen-Kashirsk (Kovel district) Libeshei and Pinsk.

        A large part of the bloody acts that were perpetrated against many Jewish victims was memorialized by the famous Zionist from Pinsk and community activist, R. Avraham Asher Feinstein, under the title, "The Scroll of the calamity in Pinsk and surrounding region during the Balakhovitchist regime."

        Returning to the 17 martyrs of Zakazelia, it took five days to receive the permit from the Polish authorities to bury them in a Jewish cemetery. Three to four Jews from Zakazelia and I didn't leave the victims for a moment during that period. We recited psalms and studied Mishnah, and were overcome with hot tears. This was my "food" during the entire 5 days.

        All of Drohitchin was in deep mourning when the funeral procession of five carts went through the streets on the way to the cemetery. The entire Jewish population, young and old, led by the rabbis, accompanied the dead to their eternal rest with heart-rendering wailing, which must have torn the heavens and risen straight to the Divine Throne. There were 17 eulogies made by rabbis and businessmen. I eulogized the dead with heart-felt words, beginning with the verse from Lamentations, "Woe, G-d, what has happened to us? Look at us and see our shame."

         The 17 graves were prepared, and 17 Mourner's Prayers were recited. The entire mournful congregation remained silent and returned home in a tearful mood and with bowed heads, reciting the prayer, "Lord of the Universe, avenge the blood of your servants!"

        Who could have thought that 25 years later, the American émigrés from Drohitchin would publish a special Yizkor Book dedicated to the sacred memory of the entire Jewish community of the beloved and dear town of Drohitchin, which was so brutally destroyed in a Sanctification of G-d's Name, together with hundreds of Jewish cities, towns and villages at the hands of the German murderers, whose people descend from Amalek, Pharoah, Haman, Torquemada, Khmelnitsky, Balakhovitch, and many others.

        Woe to our People who lived through this!!

        May these pages, written with pain and blood from my heart, serve as an eternal monument for my dear unforgettable sister, Batsheva, and her two small daughters, blooming flowers, and to the 14 other martyrs of Zakazelia in 1921, as well as to many hundreds of Drohitchin émigrés – men, women and children who died in the Sanctification of G-d's Name in 1942-43, may G-d avenge their blood!

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